Brotherhood, glittering swords and knives, drinking bowls of liquor and eating chunks of meat … these are the things that are likely to enter your mind when it comes to jianghu, a word referring to the community of martial artists in stories such as Heroes of the Marshes (《水浒传》).
But in the eyes of the famous Chinese independent filmmaker Jia Zhangke, jianghu now has a different meaning. It is “an integral part of Chinese culture, for people living on the margin”, Jia told the UK-based news website The Upcoming. “They need to form a brotherhood because they can’t survive on their own. They have their own values, their own rituals, their own ways of living.”
但在中国著名独立电影制作人贾樟柯看来，如今的“江湖”有着不同的含义。“对于边缘人群而言，它是中华文化的必要一环”，贾樟柯在接受英国新闻网站The Upcoming 采访时表示。“他们需要兄弟情，因为这些人无法独自生存下去。他们有着自己的价值观、自己的惯例、自己的生活方式。”
His latest movie Ash Is Purest White, whose Chinese name translates to “Sons and Daughters of Jianghu” (《江湖儿女》), hit Chinese mainland cinemas on Sept 21. In the movie, jianghu refers to “a group of ordinary people living in the margin who uphold a sense of righteousness despite coming from a shady or poor background,” as the director put it.
Apart from shedding light on people living in the margins, Jia’s movies also focus on changes. As the title of his famous work Mountains May Depart (《山河故人》, 2005) suggests, time may change rivers and mountains, but our hearts stay the same. The film depicts a town beauty named Tao, and her growth and love over 25 years.
“It reflects the triviality of human connections and relationships,” Jia told London-based news Financial Times. “We’re apart for whatever reason: a job, a prospect ... When I think back on school friends, we spent almost all our young lives together. Then we lose touch. Some friends reappear, some not. The film is very much like that.”
Although his movies always have a sense of nostalgia, they also reflect reality. Some directors in the 1980s managed to break Chinese cinema out of its closed mould and try something new, but Jiang thinks they may have actually gone too far. “They’ve changed a lot: in their current films, you’re no longer seeing the experience of life in China. While my way of filming allows me to describe Chinese reality without distortion,” Jia told Australia-based film magazine Senses of Cinema.
(Translator & Editor: Wang Xingwei AND Luo Sitian)